Is there an outside dirt bias at Churchill Downs?

Is there an outside dirt bias at Churchill Downs?
Photo: Evers/Eclipse Sportswire

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Dirt horses who made their stretch runs slightly wide on the Kentucky Oaks card were successful. But calling the common thread a bias is tricky because the outside rallying horse in the stretch typically holds an advantage anyway. But there was a connection. 

Click here for Churchill Downs Results.

The “golden 3 to 5 path” of the Oaks card deserves attention. Here is a short race-by-race recap of the dirt action at Churchill Downs Friday.

In Race 1, Powder River winded up her run at least five paths outside. As the wire became closer, Powder River came in toward Mucho Macha Momma and Pop a Choc, and she then found herself three wide before prevailing by half a length.

In Race 2, the 32-1 long shot Distorted Verve ran in a pressing position for most of the backstretch. She lost ground in the stretch and gave the impression of a beaten filly chugging along in the three path, and then she somehow came back late to win while staying three wide.

In Race 3, Australasia went through the inside on the turn. But she began to drift three or four paths wide before settling on the three path and winning by two lengths.

In Race 4, Illiogami began second-to-last before swinging wide on the far turn and gradually making her way to the lead. She was probably in the four or five path at the wire.

In Race 6, Maxfield made a wide bid on the far turn before staying at least four or five paths wide in the stretch run and pulling clear of Visitant like a good horse.

In Race 8, Shedaresthedevil set the early pace with a small cushion. At the top of the stretch, she went three paths wide under Florent Geroux and kept finding more than Envoutante on the rail. Remember, a good outside path could help a speed horse who keeps a little bit wide.

In Race 9, Obligatory came from the clouds to tip outside the crowded pack at the top of the stretch and move past every filly, including Dayoutoftheoffice. She was super wide at the top of the stretch but came in closer into the four or five path by the time she hit the wire.

In Race 11, Malathaat ran four paths wide at the top of the stretch. As she came in to engage Search Results, Malathaat was then about two or three paths wide before winning the featured Kentucky Oaks. 

In Race 13, it took the 15-1 Portilla the entire length of the stretch, but after staying on the three path and continuing to fight, she beat the 2-1 Played Hard by a nose.

Again, take those results with a grain of salt. The maintenance crew could work on the Churchill Downs track before the Kentucky Derby card or between each race. Also, horses typically fire their best shot when put on the outside because there is more breathing room. Most horses hesitate to move on the inside because they feel closed in.  

In terms of Friday’s results though, the three, four and five paths in the stretch run of dirt races clearly were successful paths for finishing off those races.


Meet Reinier Macatangay

My first time at the racetrack came as a 5-year-old kid at Santa Anita Park. For most of my younger life, that was the only track I attended other the occasional visit to Hollywood Park. 

Years later, after graduating California State University, Stanislaus with an English MA, I began writing for Lady and the Track. From late 2014-2016, my articles were seen on a weekly basis and covered handicapping, interviews with well-known racing personalities, fashion and more. 

The handicapping style I use concentrates on pace analysis. Some horses are compromised by the pace. Others are helped. Handicappers just starting out cannot easily see how pace affects the finish, so with this blog, I hope to help those unsure of how to apply pace into their handicapping and post-race analysis. 

On an unrelated note, I enjoy video games and attending anime or comic-book conventions. I am currently based in Kentucky, but spend a lot of time traveling between there and California.

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